Last Updated on March 17, 2017

Student Housing Options Around the University of Alberta

By Alan F Macdonald

***This is a price comparison from 2013. Rates for residence and housing costs have gone up since that time. Do not quote this information to University of Alberta Residence Services as being current. It is not.***

University tuition isn’t cheap. But for those who don’t live in Edmonton already, students going to the University of Alberta have housing costs to consider as well. Here is a breakdown of different housing options for U of A students. There are three possibilities really: student residence, renting a house or apartment – or for a lucky few – the purchase of a condo or house as an investment.

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Living in Residence

There are quite a number of different residences owned and operated by the University of Alberta, but we’ll focus on the ones at the north campus and compare housing with similar locations as this applies to the most students. (The residence at Michener Park is for students with families and the residence at Faculte St Jean are other possibilities, but are beyond the scope of this article).

Living in any one of these places likely means no more than a 15 minute walk to class

At the North Campus of the University of Alberta, there are 7 different places that students can rent from the U of A. These are all extremely close to  campus, so there is a distinct advantage there for those who do not want to commute at all. Living in any one of these places likely means no more than a 15 minute walk to class. That is pretty cool considering how cold it is here during most of the school year. But what are the other benefits and the cost to living in residence?

View University of Alberta Edmonton Residences in a larger map

Lister Centre (Classic Lister)

Classic Lister or Lister Hall – named for the 3 older apartment buildings – the Henday, Mackenzie and Kelsey – located at 11604 87 Ave in a large complex of high-rise apartments meant or first-year students. Because one of 4 optional meal plans must also purchased, this may be a great option for those students who don’t know how to cook yet, or feel like their time would be better spent studying than procuring meals. Lister is not the quietest place, but it is pretty inexpensive and does give a decent “away at university for the first time” experience. A lot is taken care of at Lister including utilities and furniture, so it’s easy to just move in and start attending class. Terms are for 8 months with optional 4 month spring/summer terms available if the student is attending class all year-round.

Some benefits to living in Lister are study libraries, a convenience store, computer labs, exercise facilities, piano rooms, gymnasium and TV lounges

The cost to rent a dorm at Lister is:

***This is a price comparison from 2013. Rates for residence and housing costs have gone up since then. Do not quote this information to University of Alberta Residence Services as being current. It is not.***

lister hall residence prices 2013


Lister Centre (Schäffer Hall)

Schäffer Hall is located on the corner of 87th Avenue and 117th Street on the Lister Centre Site and is designed for 2nd and 3rd year students including those who have transferred from another school. Units are furnished and rented on an 8-month term basis with the optional spring/summer 4-month term available as well. Schäffer Hall can accommodate over 400 students and meal plans are required as with Lister Hall. There are 4 tiers of meal plan options available to students in residence here.

The cost to rent dorm room at Schäffer Hall is:

***This is a price comparison from 2013. Rates for residence and housing costs have gone up since then. Do not quote this information to University of Alberta Residence Services as being current. It is not.***

shaffer hall residence prices 2013


Located within Hub Mall at 90th Street and 112th Avenue, this is the fast food of U of A residences. If you want to be in the center of everything this is the place to be. It’s busy and noisy, but the price isn’t bad. Here you can have anything from a furnished studio to an unfurnished 4-bedroom to share with three of your closest classmates. Leases are flexible too and start and end dates can be arranged to fit almost any schedule – availability permitting.

The cost to rent an apartment at Hub Residence is:

***This is a price comparison from 2013. Rates for residence and housing costs have gone up since then. Do not quote this information to University of Alberta Residence Services as being current. It is not.***

hub residence prices 2013

East Campus Village

East Campus Village or ECV is a grouping of homes and apartments just east of the U of A that is meant for 2nd year students and up. Most of the homes in the area are really neat older homes that are original to the Garneau neighbourhood, but will likely be torn down eventually to make way for new residences or buildings for the University. Renting a place here means being close to class, but also being able to share a house with friends. Units are rented out month-to-month and include basic utilities.

The cost to rent a house or apartment at East Campus Village is:

***This is a price comparison from 2013. Rates for residence and housing costs have gone up since then. Do not quote this information to University of Alberta Residence Services as being current. It is not.***

east campus village residence prices 2013

International House

Also known as I-House, International House is located at 111th Street and 88th Avenue. This residence is for all but first-year students, including graduate students and those in professional programs. Suites are dorm-style furnished units with shared kitchens and private washrooms. Leases can be 8-month or 4-month terms depending on whether the student will take classes during the spring/summer semester. International House is not limited to only international students.

The cost to rent an apartment at International House is:

***This is a price comparison from 2013. Rates for residence and housing costs have gone up since then. Do not quote this information to University of Alberta Residence Services as being current. It is not.***

international house residence prices 2013

Newton Place

Newton Place is located at 8515 112th Street and is meant for 3rd year, 4th year and graduate students. It is a high-rise building with unfurnished apartments with a suite mix that includes studio, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments. Contracts are typically 1 year long and end on July 31, but may start at any time depending on when other students’ leases are up.

The cost to rent an apartment at Newton Place is:

***This is a price comparison from 2013. Rates for residence and housing costs have gone up since then. Do not quote this information to University of Alberta Residence Services as being current. It is not.***

newton place residence prices 2013

Graduate Residence

Graduate Residence is located at 110th Street and 87th Avenue and is totally sweet. One of the nicest looking row houses in Edmonton, the location – like all residences in this article – is amazing, too. As the name implies, only graduate students may rent an apartment in this complex. These suites are furnished and leases are typically 1 year long. Graduate House

The cost to rent an apartment at Graduate Residence is:

***This is a price comparison from 2013. Rates for residence and housing costs have gone up since then. Do not quote this information to University of Alberta Residence Services as being current. It is not.***

graduate residence prices 2013

There are some things to consider when comparing residences to rental or mortgage payments, one of them being that many university residences are only for 8 months of the year – that is there are no payments for 4 months because they expect that the students will return back home for the summer. While students who occupy rentals and purchased condos or houses still may go home,  payments must be made every month. This makes a comparison of yearly prices necessary to really see what’s what when it comes to value in buying, renting or living in residence. Some residences will be ‘cheaper’ but only if the student can or will go home for the summers. For these comparisons, I will be using monthy prices to show what it would be like if the student lived in Edmonton all year. Some video tours of various residences can be found on the University of Alberta Residences YouTube page here.

Renting a House or Apartment

Renting is a way to have more control and privacy compared to living in residence without having to buy

Most students who don’t live with their parents will rent a place near the U of A. This is often the way to have more control and privacy compared to living in residence without having to buy something – which just isn’t possible for a student to do. Typically rental rates and mortgage costs have gone hand in hand. This is because an investor must pay for his or her rental property with a tenant’s rent. If the tenant was getting a good deal, the investor may not be able to pay the mortgage. And why would a real estate investor give someone a deal? This is a business after all. Let’s look at some rental rates in the University Area to see if this is the case here as well.

Rental Option 1 – An average 1-bedroom apartment in the University Area

An average apartment in the University area should run about $1200 per month. If this seems a little expensive, I think it is. However, that’s because most of these units are not really meant for University students, but rather older folks with jobs. A couple could certainly share a 1-bedroom apartment, but most students are not going to be getting their own place.

Rental Option 2 – A cheaper average 1-bedroom apartment in the University Area

Now this is more realistic – an apartment that’s only $1000 per month. For this you would get a fairly good location and a parking spot, but a smallish place. That shouldn’t be a problem for a student, though. Agian, a couple could share a 1-bedroom place, which would really help with the costs.

Rental Option 3 – A room for rent in the University Area or a basement suite in a house

You can find basement suites for rent around the University area for as low as $600 per month. A room rental wouldn’t be much less than this, but that all depends on the condition of the home. Bear in mind with basement suites and homes that have been divided up in general that they often do not meet fire code standards. Be sure to check out the safety aspects of any place you rent – but these especially. It is not likely you would have much room for parking on site if you rent one of these places, but street parking may be available depending on the location. When it comes to living cheaply and not in residence, these places are hard to beat.

Rental Option 4 – An average 2-bedroom apartment for rent in the University Area

So when it comes to 2-bedroom places, prices actually don’t go up much. Average 2-bedroom prices seem to be around $1400 per month – just $700 per person. This is a pretty reasonable deal if you can find someone you’ll be happy to live with. You sacrifice some privacy of course, but common areas will likely be larger and that helps. Parking would be limited to one space, likely.

Rental Option 5 – A cheaper than average 2-bedroom apartment for rent in the University Area

Cheaper than average 2-bedroom places near the U of A are not easy to find, but they do come up once and a while. Rent in places like this will likely be around $1200 per month – just $600 each. That could be a great option for people who are interested in saving a little money per month. Just saving $100 per month equates to a savings of $6000 over 5 years. I always use 5 years as an example because it is rare that a student actually finishes school in 4 years.

When it comes to renting, leases are likely going to be 1 year long which is good for those who will be staying in Edmonton the entire time. Utilities would not likely be included with any of the above situations, so that is something to factor in. However, a distinct advantage to renting is not paying or being responsible for any maintenance costs that aren’t associated with damage caused by the tenant. The parking situation is also better than it would be in residence, and although not many students need to drive much, they may have their own car and have to park it somewhere. Some disadvantages to living in a rental is having little control over how the property is managed and maintained. If you live in residence, your place would likely be better maintained than it would be by a typical landlord. Renting is never a sure thing and a landlord can always sell their property or evict a tenant with just 90 days notice. That’s not a great situation when you have school to worry about and finding a place may not be that easy part way through the year.

Other options for renting also include living downtown and taking the LRT, or living in south Edmonton and taking the LRT north to school. This can be much less expensive than living nearby because rental rates are so high near the U of A.

Buying A Place

Ok, so this one is a long shot for most people, but it is worth considering. The vast majority of students have no credit to speak of, and no job, so if you’re a student at the University of Alberta, so buying your own place is not an option. However, if you are the parent of a student at the University of Alberta, you might want to consider purchasing a house or (more likely) a condo for your son or daughter to live in. This is a complicated matter because it depends on many factors, so I have given many examples of possible housing options. I do understand that this is a financial burden too costly for most families, but in some cases, it may be a great investment idea.

One Student Going To School

One of your kids is going to the U of A and you want to purchase a one-bedroom condo for him or her. What will it cost per month and will it be competitive with rental rates or student residence?

Purchase Option 1 – An average 1-bedroom condo in Zone 15 (University Area)

So zone 15 is the area around the University of Alberta. It is one of the most desirable areas in the City of Edmonton because of the proximity to the University. Vacancies are very low and investors own a lot of houses, condos and apartment buildings in area. Prices ranged anywhere from $85,000 all the way to $440,000 this past year. Well you aren’t going to buy a one-bedroom condo for a student in the $400,000 range, but the average price was $208,000 – so let’s look at that, an average 1-bedroom condo.

A 5% down payment on $208,000 = $10,400. That means the mortgage would be $197,600 which is a payment of about $935 with a 3% fixed rate for 5 years. Don’t forget to factor in condo fees, but then you don’t have to worry about utilities either. Condo fees on that average condo are $250/month, but let’s make it $350 for good measure. After all, buildings differ widely. And with taxes at $1500 per year, all this together is $935 + $350 + $125 = $1410/month. Pretty expensive.

But wait – what about the equity you’re building by paying down the mortgage. How does that factor in?

Well after 5 years of mortgage payments at a 3% interest rate, your mortgage balance would be about $169,000 – $28,700 less than it was when you bought the condo. That cash is ready and waiting for you when you sell along with your down payment so the money hasn’t been “spent” like it would have been on rent.

So how much did this 1-bedroom condo really cost you? After 5 years of monthly payments of $1410 – you paid $84,600, but you got a discount on your payments in a way – $28,700 worth of principal payments. So the actual cost of living was ($84,600 – $28,700) = $55,900. That’s actually $930 per month, and not $1410 if you consider your equity. That’s what owning can do for you. And that isn’t even considering the condo appreciating in value, which it would most likely do.

Purchase Option 2 – A cheaper than average 1-bedroom condo in Zone 15 (University Area)

So how about a less expensive condo. What can we do with that one? We’re still talking just one bedroom here, so we can find something for a lot less. There is one that sold this past year for $145,000. Maybe that would work better. Condo fees at this place are only $200 a month, but again – let’s increase them $100 and  make it $300 because condo fees are not always that low.

A 5% down payment on $145,000 = $7250. This makes for a mortgage of  $650. Taking into account the condo fees at $300 and taxes of about $100 a month, that’s cost of $1050 per month. Now we’re talking. That’s not half bad when you consider that you’re building some equity with every payment.

So what did equity do for us on this place after 5 years? Well we started with a mortgage of $137,750 after the down payment and the balance after 60 months would be $117,750 and you would have paid nearly $20,000 down on the mortgage. This makes your effective yearly cost ($1050 x 60 months) = $63,000. Take away $20,000 from that and you have a cost of $43,000 over 5 years. That’s only $716 per month! That beats any one-bedroom rental out there and many residences as well! Again, and that doesn’t take into account the possibility of making money on the market.

Two Students Going To School

Things change a lot if you have 2 kids attending the University of Alberta. As with most situations there are economies of scale at work here. Let’s look at what it might be like for each student when a 2-bedroom condo is considered.

Purchase Option 3 – An average 2-bedroom condo in Zone 15 (University Area)

A 5% downpayment on an average priced $320,000 condo will get you loan amount of $304,000 and a monthly mortgage payment of $1438. If you take into account condo fees of about $350 and taxes of $150 per month adds up to a monthly payment for both kids together is $1938 per month – $969 each. This is a little less expensive than a below average 1-bedroom place, and significantly cheaper than an average 1-bedroom condo in per student costs.

Again we should find out what the effective cost of living is in this place. Let’s do everything per-person. After 5 years, the mortgage would be paid down about $44,000. Pretty sweet, hey? OK, so after that time, you would have spent $969/month for each student but got $22,000 ‘back’ on each by paying down your mortgage. So ($969 x 60 months) = $58,140. Taking into account the $22,000 you saved, you have a cost $36,140 per student. That’s only $602 per month, per student. That’s starting to compete with dorm rooms now; without considering the market and its effect on your investment.

Purchase Option 4 – A cheaper than average 2-bedroom condo in Zone 15 (University Area)

You could easily find a $250,000 2-bedroom condo near the University. It may not be as large or as nice as the $320,000 example used above, but it would most certainly do. So let’s consider this price and find out what it would mean for your bottom line.

Again, using a 5% downpayment (or $12,500), the mortgage on this condo would be about $1125 per month with condo fees easily around $350 per month and taxes at $125 a month. This gives a combined monthly cost of $1600 for two students. That’s only $800 each!

Considering the equity is going to be wicked on this one. Let’s do per student again. ($800 each for 60 months) = $48,000. The remaining balance of the mortgage after 5 years will be $203,000, so $34,500 has been paid off. That means $17,250 of equity gained for each student. ($48,000 – $17,250) = $30,750 which becomes the total cost of living in the condo for 5 years. That’s a monthly cost of $512 – cheaper than most everything except a few shared accommodations in residence. And I won’t forget to remind you again that you can make money in real estate.

If you rent, your monthly payments could go up every month, not so if you buy

Putting it All Together

For those families who don’t live in Edmonton – buying a place for their kids to live in while attending the University of Alberta can be an an amazing deal. If you have the money and you have 2 kids attending school here it’s actually a cost effective option as compared to renting. And beyond that, it’s still a pretty good deal if you only have one student at school. Sure, there are risks, and there are drawbacks, but if you consider the future value, the control and most importantly the fact that you are investing in something that has always been in high demand – option is hard to ignore. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that the value of real estate wouldn’t pay off a large portion of the tuition – if you’re one of the many parents fronting the bill or at least helping, this just makes them caretakers of your investment. If you expect your kids to pay their own way, well that’s fine, too. It’s about time they helped you out in the finance department, right? And don’t forget, when you buy, you have much more control – your monthly payments will always be the same or less. If you rent, they could go up every month.

If you have the money, you can rent out rooms to other students as well. Just be aware that renting to people outside your family means you must put 25% down on the property as it will be considered an investment. However, in that case, all payments will be greatly reduced and even though your down payment is larger you would be collecting some rent to offset your larger initial investment – and after school is done you could keep the condo as a rental as well. That’s the beauty of owning real estate – you get to choose. When you rent, you have little control over what happens next. And your options in this case are almost endless. Even living quite far south and commuting by LRT is a great possibility for those looking to spend less on a place, or have more room for their money.

This is only a few of the options out there of course – but I tried to illustrate some possibilities that are fairly equal to each other. Whatever course of action, I hope this helps show some general directions you can go with student housing. As a REALTOR® I am of course biased towards owning real estate, but I do understand there are distinct disadvantages to purchasing property – there are maintenance costs to consider, the possibility of changing schools or dropping out and of course the initial outlay of cash for a down payment. Not everyone can purchase something for their kids to live in while they attend school. However, After careful consideration and discussion, I do believe ownership is a very viable option for those with the funds.

***This is a price comparison from 2013. Rates for residence and housing costs have gone up since then. Do not quote this information to University of Alberta Residence Services as being current. It is not.***

comparing housing costs university of alberta 2013

Please contact me if you have any questions about real estate in general or specific to student housing and I would be happy to talk about your situation. This information isn’t just limited to the University of Alberta, but could also be applied to NAIT, Grant MacEwan, Athabasca and Concordia University. I will try to do a comprehensive analysis of these areas in the near future as well.

*All rates for residences are taken from the 2012-2013 University of Alberta Residence Services pamphlet and the U of A Residences website.


by +Alan F Macdonald REALTOR® | Copyright © –


6 thoughts on “Student Housing Options Around the University of Alberta

  1. Hi Alan, I hope you could help me. The international house cost of 675$ is per month or per an 8 month or 4 month lease? . Another question, if the cost is per month what would be better, to live in HUB in studio furnished or in the I-House?. Furthermore, at I-house the internet is optional but that means you could pay for it and the I-house provides it or do I have to make a personal contract with an internet company? And what happens if I would want to have internet at HUB studio furnished?

    I hope you could answer and thanks for helping me.

    1. Hi Alex,

      I think it would be best to verify this information with the UofA housing office at housing@ualberta to be sure on the rates and included services.

  2. Dear Alan,

    MAny thanks for the useful info. I’m a PhD candidate at U of A. I’m gonna arrive to Edmonton on 29th of August. As I’m gonna attend the North Campus and I’m so low on budget what do you think is the best option for me? Should I go for the Classic lister? Or are there any cheaper availabilities? I’d also wonder how I should apply for classic lister.
    I’d really appreciate your help.


    1. Hi Majid. Sorry for the late reply. All prices are in the above chart I made (although I’m sure they have changed since it was last updated). You would have to contact the University of Alberta Residences Department for up-to-date information on rates and availability.

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